Legal Updates & Alerts

USCIS Temporarily Suspends Premium Processing of All H-1B Petitions Filed On or After April 3, 2017

March 6, 2017
By Turid Owren, Alan Perkins, and Melany Savitt

On March 3, 2017, USCIS announced it will suspend Premium Processing of all H-1B petitions filed April 3, 2017 and later. The suspension may last up to six months, and is intended to reduce the processing times for H-1B petitions filed regular processing. Many regular processed H-1B petitions have remained pending with USCIS for nearly 240 days. USCIS cites the greatly increased use of premium processing over the last few years as one of the causes for the delay in regularly processed cases.
Companies wishing to utilize premium processing service for H-1B petitions such as extensions or changes of employer should prepare and file such petitions prior to April 3. H-1B extensions can be filed six months in advance of expiration. Petitions subject to the FY2018 cap will not be eligible for premium processing as a result of this suspension because the filing window begins April 3.
USCIS premium processing service provides a decision or a request for evidence within 15 calendar days of filing, for an additional fee of $1,225. Traditional expedited processing requests for which there is no fee can continue to be submitted to USCIS. Expedited processing requests are discretionary and must meet USCIS criteria, which include demonstrated severe financial loss to a company or person, an emergency situation, or humanitarian reasons, among others. 
In light of the premium processing suspension, employers may wish to take advantage of H-1B portability instead of waiting for a decision on H-1B change of employer cases given hiring pressures and lengthier H-1B processing times. H-1B portability permits an employer to begin employing an H-1B status holder upon the filing of an eligible H-1B change of employer petition.  
This client alert is prepared for the general information of our clients and friends. It should not be regarded as legal advice. If you have any questions regarding this update, or for more information about this topic, please contact any of the attorneys in our Business Immigration practice group, or the attorney with whom you normally consult.